Berlioz: Les Troyens

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Berlioz
LABELS: C Major
WORKS: Les Troyens
PERFORMER: Lance Ryan, Gabriele Viviani, Giorgio Giuseppini, Stephen Milling, Eric Cutler, Oksana Shilova, Elisabete Matos, Daniela Barcellona, Zlata Bulycheva; Generalitat Valenciana Chorus & Valencia Community Orchestra/Valery Gergiev; dir. La Fura dels Baus (Valencia Palau de les Arts, 2010)
CATALOGUE NO: 706008 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)

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After Valencia’s uneven but often brilliant production of Wagner’s Ring cycle, Catalan multimedia troupe La Fura dels Baus stage another operatic epic, along with the Mariinsky and Warsaw’s Teatr Wielki. Perhaps reflecting Valencia’s futuristic house and the Wielki’s lunar décor, producer Carlos Padrissa translates Berlioz’s Les Troyens to Star Wars-style ‘space opera’.
 
There’s more to genuine science fiction than plastic armour and funny hairdos, though; while Padrissa’s computer projections and airborne acrobats achieve memorable visions, he underproduces the human element. Embattled Troy is a dystopian ruin under nuclear dustclouds, the robotic Trojan Horse unleashing, like an internet ‘Trojan’, computer breakdown. Carthage becomes a girdered space station resembling the CERN particle accelerator, with Dido airborne at its heart. Padrissa makes the only real stab I’ve seen at Berlioz’s spectacular scenario for the Royal Hunt.
 
Lance Ryan’s irremovable silver spacesuit may perhaps explain his stilted acting, if not his poor French and strained tone. Elisabete Matos makes an effective Cassandra, but can’t equal the passion of DVD rivals Jessye Norman and Anna Caterina Antonacci. Daniela Barcellona is a fine Dido undermined by her wig.
 
Valery Gergiev relishes the score’s exotic colours, but with less tautly classical drama than John Eliot Gardiner and his crisp authentic instruments. Gergiev retains the more usual revised version, making this a useful, often impressive alternative. Michael Scott Rohan